Category Archives: Research

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How to Remove Bias From Peer Review

The ugly side of peer review was on full display last week when a scientific paper was rejected for reasons that smacked of sexism. Two female authors had submitted a paper to a journal that is part of the open-access PLOS family. A negative decision was made based on a single review stating, “It would probably also be beneficial to find one or two male biologists to work with (or at least obtain internal review from, but better yet as active co-authors). … ”

The reviewer has since been removed

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Save the Academic Conference. It’s How Our Work Blossoms.

It’s fun to mock academic conferences. They are quite mockable, because academics are nerds. At our best, because we all know that we are nerds, we work hard but don’t take ourselves or our rituals too seriously.

And yet I was concerned when Christy Wampole, an assistant professor of French and Italian at Princeton, asked, in a widely shared essay in The New York Times, “What is the purpose of the conference?” Her purpose was to call for better behavior, promoting a manifesto of best practices (…

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A Field Guide to American Higher-Ed Reformers

This short and easy-to-use field guide is designed to help both academics and lay audiences quickly identify some of the important species and subspecies that now occupy the higher-education landscape in the United States. Recognizing these various species, many of which are new to this environment, has become particularly important in this period of drastic university climate change and species migration.

1. Venture philanthropists and foundations

Species: Benevolentia disrumpo

Habitat/range: F…

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A New Era? The Outlook for U.S.-Cuba Academic Relations

A new era in U.S.-Cuba relations was ushered in on December 17th when the presidents of both countries announced they were prepared to end nearly six decades of estrangement. I had nearly lost hope that in my lifetime there would be a rapprochement between my adopted nation and the island where I was born and which I left 55 years ago with my parents.

I have made the study of my homeland my academic career, so I could not be more thrilled about the prospect of a normalization of relations. I als…

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Don’t Divide Teaching and Research

We excel, in the research university, at preparing our students to do world-class research — everywhere except the classrooms in which they teach. From the beginning we insist that Ph.D. applicants explain their research plans. When they arrive we put them through their paces in methodology classes, carefully taking apart their ideas of what they want to accomplish and introducing them to the hard work of gathering data, performing analyses, testing and retesting hypotheses, and exploring all …

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‘Charlie Hebdo,’ Houellebecq, and France’s Pungent Satirical Tradition

Accompanying many of the appalling accounts of Wednesday’s massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo is a reproduction of the satirical weekly’s cover. It features a caricature of the writer Michel Houellebecq, garbed in a blue wizard’s outfit, face unshaven, jowls sagging and eyes bleary (no doubt from one glass de trop), smoke spiraling from a cigarette wedged between his fingers. No doubt in a slurred voice, France’s best-selling novelist, whose new book Soumission (Submission) went on sale th…

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AAU’s Sexual-Assault Survey Will Serve Students and Policy Makers

Last month the Association of American Universities, of which I am president, announced that it would conduct a “sexual assault climate survey” across a number of our public and private research universities. Our primary goal is to provide universities with the information they need to craft empirically informed policies and practices for protecting students from sexual assault and promoting campus safety. We also hope that collecting data from across our universities will inform public poli…

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Surveys, Secrecy, and Sexual Assault

A phrase made famous during the Watergate hearings was, “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” Variations on that question are now being asked at the University of Virginia following gang-rape allegations, and elsewhere as well.

Related questions arise: What do college and university presidents know about the prevalence of sexual assault just a few blocks from their offices—and what must they do to find out? What do they know about the efficacy of their own policies?

One might e…

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Reclaiming History for the Future

A specter is haunting our time: the specter of the short term. We live in a moment of accelerating crisis that is characterized by a shortage of long-term thinking. Rising sea levels and other threats to our environment; mounting inequality; rotting infrastructure. Our culture lacks a long-term perspective.

Where can we turn for deep knowledge?

To history—the discipline and its subject matter.

Putting long-termism into practice is hard. When we peer into the future, instead of facts, we routinel…

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A Good, Dumb Way to Learn From Libraries

Too bad we can’t put to work the delicious usage data gathered by libraries.

Research libraries may not know as much as click-obsessed Amazon does about how people interact with their books. What they do know, however, reflects the behavior of a community of scholars, and it’s unpolluted by commercial imperatives.

But privacy concerns have forestalled making library usage data available to application developers outside the library staff, and often even within. And the data are the definition of…